Dealing with Aging Parents and Siblings: 5 Ways to Work Better Together

dealing with aging parents and siblings

Dealing with aging parents and siblings at the same time is tough

For many siblings and families, working together to care for aging parents can be incredibly frustrating. There’s hard work to do and tough discussions to have, but clashing personalities and past conflicts can get in the way.


Advice on caring for aging parents with siblings

In U.S. News & World Report, Francine Russo shares tips from her book They’re Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy.

The article was written a few years ago, but Francine’s advice is timeless and universal. Who among us hasn’t struggled with family members over our older adult’s care?


5 top tips for dealing with aging parents and siblings

Out of Francine’s advice in the article, we think these 5 tips are the most relevant to families who are trying to work with their relatives to care for their older adult. Her advice is geared toward siblings, but can easily apply to other family relationships.

1. Falling prey to the “killer” misconception that “I shouldn’t have to ask”
If you’re the one doing most (or all) of the caregiving, you’ve probably thought: “If my sister was a good person, she would volunteer to help or at least be more willing to help.”

Francine’s advice is to remember that not all siblings feel the same way about their parent. Each person has a different relationship and had a different role in the family while growing up. Today, they may not feel the same way about your parents’ care as you do.

2. Assuming that our siblings are the same people they were as kids
Francine suggests approaching your relatives as adults because their reaction could surprise you. After all, you’re no longer the same person you were in childhood. Before making any assumptions, give them a chance to show you their adult personality.

3. Automatically reverting to childhood roles
Maybe when you were kids, the older sibling took care of everything. It’s easy to fall back into that pattern and let them take on most of the responsibility of caring for your parents.

Francine reminds us that isn’t fair to any sibling. Take a step back and don’t fall into those old roles without thinking about it and talking things through.

4. Not realizing that your beef may be caused by your parent, not your sibling
“They may not mean to, but parents can divide their adult children,” says Russo.

Her example: You fly in to visit your mom and all she can talk about is how your brother called her a few times last week and how wonderful he is. That will probably make you grind your teeth in frustration since you’ve just flown across the country to see her.

Parents can also divide their children when they tell each person a different story about how they’re doing. The one who sees them most often or lives nearby might get the truth about her decline. But the one who’s far away may see mom putting on a good face because she doesn’t want them to worry. When the two siblings talk, they’ll have completely different ideas about how mom is doing and each will think the other is crazy.

5. Not planning for tough realities ahead
End-of-life is difficult to talk about and so, most people avoid starting the conversation. But avoiding it until the last minute can cause even more conflict and problems at the worst time.

Francine’s tip is to call a family meeting when your parents are still healthy. Here’s her suggestion for how to start the conversation: “Remember aunt so-and-so, and how our cousins were still fighting when she was on the respirator and they wouldn’t let her die and how painful that was for everybody? We don’t want that to happen in our family. Mom, Dad, do you have a living will? Have you assigned somebody to be the healthcare proxy? If you were on a respirator or in really bad shape, would you want us to do everything possible, or would you just want to go quietly? Who should make that decision? We’ll all want to do what’s right, but we may have different feelings.”

When the whole family hears your parents’ wishes straight from their mouths, it’s easier to be on the same page when the time comes to carry out those wishes.


Bottom line

These 5 tips give us some insight on what causes family conflicts. Knowing what’s behind someone’s reaction can help when dealing with aging parents and siblings at the same time.

Do what you can to get them to help you care for your senior, but if you can’t get the support you need from family members, move on and create your own a caregiving team from friends, volunteer help, and hired help.


Next Step  Get all 9 of Francine’s tips for dealing with aging parents and siblings


You might also like:
4 Tips to Get Family to Help with Elderly Parents
3 Ways to Deal with Family in Denial About Seniors Needing Help
Stop Arguing with Siblings about Mom’s Care, Try Elder Mediation


By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: My Better Nursing Home

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